The loss of a friend

Liam Gray

One cannot simply just move on after losing someone so dear; it takes months of recovery to return to the way you were prior to the loss.

A group of friends learned this Lesson back in October when a dear friend of theirs passed; the glue that held their friendship together.

Elizabeth Harrington, a college student majoring in Chemistry, had friends all over the world. A lot in America, some in Europe, and even one in Australia. She was a bright energy that filled any space that she entered, could always fill the void when things got silent, and was a great shoulder to lean on.

However, she always struggled with her health. It had always been minor things, but in October of 2021 she was hospitalized due to complications with anemia. While in the hospital, she fell into a coma. She was in this coma for about three days, until October 27, when her brain stem died. She passed away peacefully, but it left an indent in the people she considered friends. 

Alyssa Birges, lived in Fresno, California, at the time, and was studying to become a school guidance counselor. She was driving when she first received the news.

Birges described her emotions when she read the message. “Her boyfriend, Cole, texted me directly about it and I just froze, like, disbelief. I nearly got into a car accident because I physically couldn’t comprehend what I had heard,” she said.

Another friend of Harrington’s, Joey Walsh, shared Birges’ reaction of disbelief. “I was really shocked, at first I didn’t want to believe it. I wanted to believe it was some mean joke. I didn’t think I could lose a friend so early in life.”

The aftermath of Harrington’s passing was a grim one. Friends did not interact for a while, group chats died off, and they were sequestered to dealing with the grief alone.

Some handled the grief by concealing it, as Ryan Gellner did. ”It’s tough to express anything about online friends, as it’s something very disliked in my household, so I felt I couldn’t show any emotions around them.”

Others did not feel they needed to disguise their feelings and emotions. “I honestly never really hid my grief. I’m not the type to bottle my emotions, so if I wanna cry I’ll just cry,” Angel Velasquez shared. 

Birges was open with her friends about how she grieved. The most important part to her was learning the balance of love and sadness.

Love and sadness. Truly the two influential emotions of one’s life. With love there comes sadness. And all good things must come to an end.

To counter the sadness, one must develop a way to deal with it. Coping. Everyone has a different way of coping, some safer than others. However, coping can become unhealthy if the emotions are too overbearing.

Shane O’Byrne, one of Harrington’s friends living in Rathoe, Ireland, experienced the immense amount of self-hatred and guilt that can come from losing someone so close to your heart.

“My lowest point was when the self blame and hate really kicked in. I was just really angry and stressed at myself for not doing more. …it was a lot of punching and hurting my hands, ripping at my hair, all out of pure frustration, tiredness, stress and self-hate. I internalized it all and it’s one of the lowest points I’ve had in my life,” O’Byrne described his actions after learning of Harrington’s passing.

Others used the events set up by Harrington’s families as a way to give a final goodbye to her. Gellner, Birges, and O’Byrne attended the virtual memorial service over Zoom, which took place roughly a week after her passing. All were given the opportunity to share some memories of Harrington and express their emotions of her passing.

Gellner shared his thoughts on attending the memorial service. “Going to her memorial service made it so I could feel more at peace with everything. Hearing what everyone said about Liz made me more happy in the moment than the great deal of sadness I felt before.” 

Some of Harrington’s friends’ favorite memories included talking about common interests, playing games together , watching shows and movies together, and overall enjoying each other’s company.

“I can’t really dictate a favorite memory because we’ve shared so many, but I guess one that sticks out to me more than others is when we both were on a private call and stayed up until three in the morning watching this really stupid movie called Killer Bean and just having girl talk together. Just catching up, sharing our aspirations and goals, and how we both want to meet in the future,” said Birges when questioned about her favorite memory shared with Harrington.

One thing that remains the same amongst all her friends is that she made a huge impact on people all around the world. From North America, to Europe, to even Australia, Harrington was described as a close friend by many. 

“Liz was one of my closest friends that I’ve known for almost a decade. She was the kind of person that can just light up the entire room with her presence. She never had a single mean bone in her body and she was someone that genuinely loved her friends and would do whatever she could for them. We were like sisters to each other. We mentored each other, cared for each other, and loved each other. We did far more than just play games together or talk. We helped each other with life, such as my lessons in the program, and with general life and counseling advice. She was someone that I could always count on to be there for me and to have my back thick and thin. She really and truly meant the world to me, and countless others,” Birges stated. 

“Countless others.” Truly a way to describe the effect Harrington had on many lives. While her life may have been cut short, her story reigns on and people still share her memory to this day.

One cannot simply move on from a loss of a dear friend, but one can spread someone’s story for years to come.